Mental poverty has become a problem in Nigeria and indeed in the whole world. Just as mental impoverishment has become a serious national and global problem. Mental poverty or impoverishment is not something related to mental health. To me mental poverty is a refusal to change and trying better ways of thinking, do a task or putting one’s thoughts into action. Due to this, many die avoidable deaths. Many are criticised unnecessarily.

Mental poverty can also simply just be an impoverished mind. It is a way of living for some. It is a condition and state of mind where there are limited educational resources and opportunities, and if there are, one chooses to avoid them. It is a system that exists where the norm is ignorance and refusal. Refusal to change or grow, to try and learn new and better ways of not only thinking but also putting thoughts into action. It is essentially a poor mind.

In today’s state of environmental crisis, only someone afflicted with mental poverty could choose not to recycle or not worry about the effects of climate change on the sustainability of the planet . Only someone with afflicted mental poverty will keep doing the same way over and over and expect different results . You are likely to say only lunatics would do that. Lunacy represents the worst form of mental poverty. Sane people ought to learn from mistakes of yesterday and therefore not repeat past errors.

Before you say it’s impossible for people to keep repeating the same process and expect different results, let me give you real life examples. In Nigeria, the tango or crisis between the Federal Government and ASUU has been on regularly for 40 years, following the same pattern. ASUU has been complaining of the same things…poor funding of education, much below the recommended UNESCO level of 25% of the budget, poor salaries, poor infrastructure, poor governance structure within the universities including insufficient autonomy etc. ASUU has followed the same processes…issue warnings and give time limits..organise warning strikes… eventually there will be a strike of varying durations, there will be a form of negotiation…there will be. a form of negotiation that will be repudiated by government or not implemented by government…and the cycle goes on. Of course FGN will react in a predictable manner. Government will ignore the complaints, the resolutions, the warning strikes and eventual strike…threaten the teachers…go to industrial court to seek to declare the strike illegal…implement no work- no pay rule….try to undermine or fractionalise the union….Senate or House of Representatives will wade in…some form of negotiation will take place…some agreements will be reached….which the Government will predictably either repudiate or not implement. This cycle has gone on in the last 40 years on a collective choice of a ROAD TO NOWHERE. What will you call that senseless recycling? Mental poverty or lunacy.

That has been the pattern of relationships between Government and Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors or even Nigeria Medical Association. One would expect either the Government or the Labour Unions to be creative and innovative, and come with new approaches or processes. That will not happen in a country where, because of mental poverty or impoverishment, the processes and approaches have been fossilised and routinised.

Let us look at another example which has shown how mentally impoverished our leaders and the followers have become. And that has involved the handling of fuel subsidy since the Babangida years. Never mind the debate on whether in fact and truth, there is fuel subsidy. Or whether there is an unfortunate cabal that has been involved in the worst form of kleptocracy. And why it has been difficult to domesticate the refining of our crude oil which would have created more jobs in the country, and made available more by-products that would have stimulated more petroleum based small-to-medium scale industries and thereby create millions of jobs and strengthen our economy. Those countries from which we import refined petroleum products realised that is much better and made more economic sense to domesticate crude oil refining. If those countries have not established refineries where would we have been importing. Our leaders never found answers to simple questions that would have assisted us from repeating the same tango of the mad in our seasonal efforts to remove fuel subsidy. Why was there a need for subsidy? Why is it difficult to decide not to export crude oil. Why is it difficult to export only refined products? Why are the four refineries not working inspite of the huge funds committed to Turn Around Maintenance? Why was the privatisation of the four refineries? Why did we have to wait so long for Dangote Refinery before building new refineries? Whose interests were we serving? Leaders who were suffering from mental poverty or impoverishment will not consider alternative lines of action, but will remain glued to actions that never solved the problems.

So what has been routinised behaviour in the last 40 years? Government will announce the withdrawal of fuel subsidy, because that’s what IMF and WORLD BANK recommend. Immediately there will be a price hike of petroleum products. There will be an outcry by the impoverished and pauperised people, sometimes including riots and demonstrations. Government will begin the routine of negotiations with labour. One wonders why the negotiations are not done before pronouncements? They begin to work out palliatives to cushion the effects of the price hikes. One wonders why these palliatives are not pre-worked out and announced simultaneously. And since Babangida days, the palliatives have been much the same things. As the Calypso King, Might Sparrow sang in his days..”SAME SONG, SAME SOUND, NO ORIGINALITY “There can be nothing new or creatively different from leaders suffering from mental poverty or impoverishment.

Please join me next week as we explore this crippling disease of mental poverty and impoverishment.